FRIDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted Friday to place tougher restrictions on prescription painkillers containing hydrocodone, potentially moving medications such as Vicodin into the same class as narcotics such as Oxycontin and Percocet.
Vicodin (hydrocodone plus acetaminophen) and other hydrocodone-containing drugs remain widespread targets for abuse, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has long requested that the FDA advisory panel undertake the review. The panel spent two days discussing the issue before voting on Friday afternoon, the Associated Press reported.
Currently, the medications are classified as Schedule III drugs but the DEA wants them placed within the more tightly controlled Schedule II designation, alongside painkillers such as Oxycontin and Percocet.
The FDA is not required to follow the recommendations of its advisory panels, but it typically does.
The issue has become a contentious one.
Supporters of a move to Schedule II status point to tragic deaths and suicides that have been the result of misuse of these prescription drugs.
But, opponents of that tougher classification fear that tightening access to the drugs would mean that people who really need them to ease pain will not be able to get them.
"This is really a decision of access versus diversion [for non-medical use]," explained Dr. Lynn Webster, president-elect of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, who said his organization was not necessarily in favor of or opposed to reclassification.
However, "it will have an impact on a lot of patients who have been receiving them for some time for legitimate purposes" if these drugs are reclassified, Webster added.
Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, called such concerns "completely bogus."
"Even if w
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